Hindsight is always 20/20 and the amount of second-guessing going on following the Patriots 26-20 overtime loss to the Jets on Sunday is par for the course when it comes to losing a frustrating game against a division rival.
There are a lot of people questioning Bill Belichick’s decision to defer at the start of overtime, but given the new overtime format, the reason to opt to kickoff made the most sense. The Patriots weren’t moving the ball well at all on offense and Stephen Goskowski’s accuracy seemed like a better gamble than hoping Tom Brady could bring this patchwork of an offense down the length of the field and score on their opening drive considering they had managed just one offensive touchdown during the entire game.
Getting into field goal range probably seemed the more reasonable choice and Belichick explained on Monday that field position played a big part in his decision to defer. Part of what likely went into that decision could have simply been he believed his defense could stop the Jets and give them a shot to possibly win with a field goal attempt, and looking back at the fourth quarter, he was right to feel that way.
After the Jets kicked a 49-yard field goal with 13:33 to go in the game, New England’s defense more or less shut them down from there. They forced two straight three and outs on two of the final three possessions for New York and the Jets never made it any farther than midfield on their last possession of regulation. On two of New England’s possessions, they started from at least their own 31-yard line, which had they forced a Jets punt to start overtime, would have given them a better starting point to give Gostkowski a shot to win it.
“I mean look, the bottom line is field position,” said Belichick during his conference call on Monday. “With good field position, you don’t have to take it as far. If you get a stop, you need a field goal. It was really more of a field position consideration, similar to other overtime games that we’ve been in, regardless of which way the wind was going.”
“Look at the Denver game from a couple years ago or the Denver game from this year, where we had the ball, got stopped, gave it to them with good field position and they ended up scoring a touchdown, but they didn’t have very far to go to get into field goal range.”
The Patriots defense did a good job in the fourth quarter against quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, holding him to just 5-of-11 for 22 yards throwing the football, and also shut down the Jets ground game by holding them to just 4 carries for 9 yards. They also held them to 0-for-4 on third down over the final quarter.
So clearly Belichick felt confident in his defense and after taking all of that into consideration, the thought of at least forcing a punt and letting Gostkowski kick the game-winner seemed like the more logical way to go. Nobody’s happy with the outcome and that includes Belichick, and unfortunately Sunday it just didn’t work out.
“I clearly thought that was our best opportunity, so that’s why we did it,” said Belichick. “I didn’t like the way it worked out, but to me that was the right decision for our team at that time.”
And the numbers back him up.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary